But­ter­fly study re­veals pos­i­tive in­di­ca­tors

Zululand Observer - Weekender - - ZO NEWS - Larry Bent­ley

A RE­CENT as­sess­ment by KZN-based and in­ter­na­tion­ally recog­nised but­ter­fly ex­pert, Steve Wood­hall, has un­cov­ered some in­ter­est­ing and ex­cit­ing find­ings in the Ba­banango area.

This is ac­cord­ing to Zulu Rock Game Ranch Di­rec­tor Jef­frey van Staden,

Man­ag­ing game lodges re­quires an un­der­stand­ing of con­ser­va­tion is­sues af­fect­ing the en­vi­ron­ment and ecosys­tems.

A great way of as­sess­ing the qual­ity of an area’s bio­di­ver­sity is through the mon­i­tor­ing of its but­ter­fly pop­u­la­tions.

But­ter­flies are ex­tremely sen­si­tive to changes in their en­vi­ron­ment, which is why sci­en­tists of­ten use but­ter­fly pop­u­la­tion and be­havioural shifts as met­rics to mea­sure changes and prob­lems.

Ar­eas rich in but­ter­flies and moths are nor­mally rich in other in­ver­te­brates, and col­lec­tively pro­vide a wide range of en­vi­ron­men­tal ben­e­fits, in­clud­ing pol­li­na­tion and nat­u­ral pest con­trol.

Lesser seen species

Moths and but­ter­flies are im­por­tant el­e­ments of the food chain and are prey for birds, bats and other in­sec­tiv­o­rous an­i­mals.

Dur­ing Wood­hall’s re­cent visit to the Zulu Rock and Ba­banango Out­door Ed­u­ca­tion Cen­tre, a num­ber of both com­mon and rare va­ri­eties of but­ter­flies were recorded.

Ac­cord­ing to Wood­hall’s re­port, Physcaeneura panda (Dark-webbed Rin­glet) but­ter­flies were found there, with lesser num­bers found from the lower al­ti­tudes of Man­guzi For­est through to the highveld.

The Dark-webbed Rin­glet, with its beau­ti­fully marked Satyri­nae and a favourite with but­ter­fly watch­ers, was found in the grass­lands.

Wood­hall recorded some less com­mon species such as the Mil­lar’s Hair­tail (An­thene mil­lari) and the Mocker Bronze (Ca­cyreus vir­ilis).

Veld re­cov­ery

The rel­a­tive low num­ber of but­ter­fly species recorded dur­ing the study in­di­cate that the re­gion has come out of ex­ten­sive drought.

How­ever, the grass veld ap­peared to be fall­ing short of nat­u­ral de­vel­op­ment or size in some of the forbs and herbs utilised by many but­ter­flies.

This in­di­cates that the veld has not yet fully re­cov­ered from past over­graz­ing on the farms mak­ing up the re­serve.

But Wood­hall’s re­port is nev­er­the­less ex­tremely en­cour­ag­ing, in­di­cat­ing that host and nec­tar plants are grow­ing vig­or­ously with a rich grass cover.

With time, good rain­fall and proper veld man­age­ment, the plant bio­di­ver­sity should re­turn lead­ing to an in­crease in but­ter­fly species.

The fe­male

Papilio de­mod­ocus (Cit­rus Swal­low­tail or Christ­mas but­ter­fly)

A male Ax­io­cerses tjoane (the East­ern Scar­let or Com­mon Scar­let)

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